Developer: e-pac/Dr. Bott
There’s something to be said for simplicity. Too many products try to do too many different things. Dr. Bott’s LeatherPod case for the iPod isn’t one of them. It’s basic and stylish, and gets the job done well. It’s not perfect, but it’s close.
The first thing that struck me about the top-loading LeatherPod case was its snug fit with my Rev. A 10 GB iPod. There’s little risk of an iPod falling out, but at the same time, the synthetic felt liner lends itself to reasonably simple removal of the iPod—just push upward on the bottom panel and then grasp the exposed sides of the iPod and pull up. Also worth noting is that most of the friction holding the iPod in place comes from the sides of the case, which means that, should you want a replacement case for your Rev. B 10 or 20 GB iPod, or a case for the 5 GB version, the slightly thinner or thicker form factor shouldn’t be a problem.
The clear vinyl over the screen has just enough margin around the screen to allow for some shifting within the case, and the cutout neatly exposes the scroll wheel while covering the surrounding buttons. Yet these buttons remain functional, thanks to the flexible leather. The belt clip is strong, yet not too stiff, and the detachable neck lanyard (which is synthetic, in contrast to the leather construction of most of the case) is thoughtfully equipped with fully rotating connectors, preventing twists and tangles.
From a protection standpoint, this case is just the ticket for keeping the iPod’s screen and classy stainless-steel back from getting scratched. I sure wish I had had this case back in May when my iPod arrived. It would look much nicer now if I had. You shouldn’t trust it to save an iPod from a drop down a flight of stairs, but soft cases aren’t designed for impact protection, and the nice tight belt clip should prevent such a fall in many cases. The clip has the added benefit of getting the iPod out of your pocket, where, if you’re like me, it rubbed up against other items and was generally in the way (unless you put it in a cargo pocket, in which case the headphone cable was just barely long enough). The protective front flap is thick enough that my Hold switch has become redundant—with the flap down, only a very strong impact to the face will accidentally activate any of the five buttons, and the scroll wheel is completely protected.
My biggest complaint is with the outer flap that swings down to cover the face of the iPod. First, with the headphones plugged in, the flap hits the plug on the iPod’s stock headphones and has to be tilted slightly to the left in order to close properly. If the flap is closed carelessly and roughly, this might lead to eventual failure of the headphone plug. Nearly as bothersome is the case’s inability to act as a stand for the iPod. I recently saw a Motorola cell phone whose belt clip was thoughtfully designed with a small notch and prop so that it could be locked in a sprung-open position, allowing the telephone to be stood on a counter or desk. Either the cover or the belt clip on the LeatherPod could function as a “leg” to allow the LeatherPod to stand nearly upright on a flat surface, useful for those of us who use our iPods while working at a desk. The cover could stand a minor re-design to correct the headphone plug clearance issue anyway.
At $30, the LeatherPod is a little pricey (quality leather cell phone cases can be had for $10-20), but compared to Apple’s $39 nylon case that offers less protection, it’s a good deal. If you’re a Rev. A iPod user and want a stylish carrying case and some protection for your baby, or if you’re not satisfied with the nylon case Apple provides with the new 10 and 20 GB iPods, this case could be just what you’re looking for. A minor re-design could make it perfect.
On a related note, Apple has released the iPod Software Updater 1.2 for download. It brings the software features of the new iPods released at Macworld NY to the older iPods with mechanical scroll wheels, and finally brings the Breakout game to a menu.